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FAITH AND CULTURE | Loving in Christ

In a culture that is often cynical about emotions, patience, hope and kindness can be challenging and come across as naïve. The current global reality of violence and war and more localized social, political and religious divisions do little to encourage different ways of thinking and responding.

Moreover, the painful and devastating images of war we see and the vitriolic social actions pulling us apart can quickly overwhelm our spirits. Given these awful predicaments, it isn’t hard to become indifferent or simply numb to the human condition. At the same time, however, we can recognize that amid these difficulties, the human heart remains resilient.

Like generations before us, we are charged with finding life-giving and hopeful responses to difficulties by reflecting on the totality of who we are and can be for one another. In real ways, our shared resiliency rests in our ability to connect to the wisdom of others and to more boldly reflect our human values — to lift up what is good, true and beautiful.

To speak of love, patience, hope and kindness can have a positive impact in our personal lives and in the work for the common good. More to the point, we have seen how beautiful and inspiring good and kind actions are, especially in a sea of social callousness or indifference toward others. The same holds true for those moments when we witness others showing patience or expressing hope — we become motivated to do the same.

From a faith perspective, the witness of love, patience, kindness and hope becomes real and visible to us in the lives of the saints. In their way, these holy men and women continue to provide concrete examples of what it means to love in Christ. Like us, they confronted their own realities and found alternative ways to live up to their human potential and divine vocation.

As Catholics, this personal connection to the wisdom and example of past holy men and women finds a proper place in our liturgical spirituality. Every year in November, we remember and celebrate our loved ones in the solemnity of All Saints and in our commemoration of all the faithful departed. These two commemorations not only remind us of our vocation to be holy, but also teach us the way of love and communion in Christ. In genuine ways, the saints magnify God’s love in them and for us.

Furthermore, in every place and time, in every culture and circumstance, holy men and women continue to respond to the Gospel mandate to be men and women for others. “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15).

It is not difficult to see how washing one another’s feet in mutual service will solicit love, patience, hope and kindness. Beyond our words, our vocation to love in Christ requires us to be courageous and proactive in loving one another. Perhaps it is fitting this Advent season to turn our eyes to Mary, who shows us what is possible in love and magnifies the Lord with and for us (Luke 1:46-55).

Javier Orozco is the executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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